• Property: Shadow Hill Apartments
  • Location: Santee, Calif.
  • Renovation Cost: $15.8 million
  • Project Scope: Redevelopment of a run-down, crime-infested, 60-unit complex of 15 two-story fourplex apartments into quality low-income housing for families

Daunting. That was the word John Seymour, director of acquisitions and forward planning for nonprofit developer Southern California Housing Development Corp. (SoCal Housing), used to describe the Shadow Hill apartment complex in Santee, Calif., when he first saw it in 1998.

  The 60-unit complex of 15 two-story four-plexes was boxy, dilapidated, and ugly. The roofs were shot, numerous windows were boarded up, and the concrete sidewalks and driveways were broken or missing. A rusted chain link fence surrounded the property, and abandoned cars and refrigerators dotted the grounds.

So when Seymour was asked if SoCal Housing would consider renovating the project, he was skeptical. Shadow Hill seemed an almost impossible prospect for overhaul.

Yet the property fit SoCal's mission of providing not only affordable housing, but also a sense of community to low- and middle-income residents. For despite the squalor, numerous families still lived in Shadow Hill. In Southern California, it was all they could afford.

Today, Shadow Hill sports 42 two-bedroom and 40 three-bedroom gleaming white stucco apartments in a flower-laden setting. It provides housing to residents earning between 20 percent and 60 percent of the average median income and was a finalist for a 2005 NAHB's Pillars of the Industry award.

"We would never have moved into the old place," says resident Robert Pringle, 47, who was one of the first to move into the renovated Shadow Hill in 2002. "But now it's very nice, very clean overall. They do a great job."

Solving Problems

One of the first steps in the complex Shadow Hill project was getting support from those who already lived there.

"These are low-income families who tend to take the brunt of bad experiences," explains Jamie Minotti, senior program officer for Hope Through Housing, SoCal's sister social services organization. "So when they hear that their apartment building is being sold and a developer is going to come in and redevelop it, the first thing that comes to any person's ears, but specifically a low-income person's ears, is that they're going to be pushed out."